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Brand execution guidelines

Inclusion guidelines

Inclusive language and practices for communication and marketing

ASU is a welcoming and inclusive community that respects and honors people of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, religious affiliations, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, ages and veteran statuses. As such, all communications and marketing materials produced by ASU should reflect this vision for inclusion, equity and belonging. These values are based on the ASU Charter.

The guidelines outlined below apply to all types of communication, including but not limited to websites, video, newsletters, social media, press releases, promotional materials, photography, presentations and reports.

Inclusion guidelines:

  • Consider story angles and coverage that reinforce the benefits of inclusion, equity and belonging. 
  • Inclusion of who is in the process Consider the importance of inclusion, equity and belonging when hiring, planning focus groups, meetings and other activities.
  • Balanced outreach for inclusion in marketing and storytelling materials: 
    • Inclusion of men and women, or nonbinary individuals featured. 
    • Inclusion of people of all races, ethnicities, nationalities and religions.
    • Inclusion of people of all ages.
    • Inclusion of people of all socioeconomic statuses.
    • Inclusion of people with disabilities.
    • Inclusion of all body sizes, shapes and types.
  • Balance of how the stories and photos are stacked (e.g., not three top stories featuring women at the top and men at the bottom). 
  • Evaluate and summarize progress toward the goals of inclusion, equity and belonging in communications and marketing on an annual basis.
  • Accessible All websites should be accessible as defined by university standards, as outlined at
  • Without bias Check all materials for language that may be perceived as biased. Work within your team to build awareness of inherent biases and strive toward broader inclusion.
  • Visually inclusive Keep an eye on photos and video subject selections to reflect inclusion, equity and belonging in the ASU community.
  • Seek feedback and be open to change. Inclusion is a process and we will all continue to grow in response to honest feedback. Be open to the feedback and respond to it by making adjustments.

Recommended resources

Associated Press guide

The AP Stylebook is the most up-to-date guide for writing standards on specifics of language.

It does require a license to access specific recommendations. Many units have licenses to the guide. Please check with your unit to see if one is available. If you need to sign up for one, the pricing is less than $30 per year for a membership.


  • See for guidelines related to: older adult, older adults, older person, older people vs. senior citizen, elderly; youth, boy (males younger than 18), girl (females younger than 18), infant (children through 12 months old); using figures to denote age.


  • See for guidelines related to: disabilities; referencing disability only if relevant to story; identity-first language, person-first language; mentally disabled, intellectually disabled, developmentally disabled, autistic; considering alternative phrasing for “falls on deaf ears” or “turned a blind eye.”
  • In writing:
    • When possible, ask people how they prefer to be described (when the description is relevant).
      • Some people, for example, refer to themselves as “a disabled person” or simply “disabled,” using identify-first language. 
      • Others prefer “person with a disability,” using person-first language. 
    • In describing groups of people, use person-first language.

Gender and sexuality

See for guidelines related to: gender vs. sex; sex reassignment, gender confirmation, transgender (adj.); asexual; bisexual; cisgender; gay, lesbian; gender-nonconforming; heterosexual (n. and adj.); homosexual (adj.), homosexuality (n.); intersex; LGBTQ (adj.); nonbinary, pronouns (they/them/their); female (adj.); assumption-free treatment of the sexes.

LGBTQ+ (adj.) Acceptable in all references for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer and/or questioning, plus other sexual and gender minorities. Fewer or additional letters can be used to be more inclusive or in quotations and names of organizations and events, such as LGBT or LGBTQIA. I stands for intersex, and A typically stands for asexual (a person who doesn’t experience sexual attraction). Use of LGBTQ+ is best used as a collective adjective: Walters joined the LGBTQ+ business association. Avoid using LGBTQ+ to describe individuals, and don’t default to LGBTQ+ if discussing a more specific population: a bisexual advocacy group, a transgender health program. When part of a hyphenated compound modifier, drop the plus sign: LGBTQ-related legislation.

  • Gender neutral language:
    • Do not use he/she, s/he or he and she when the gender of the subject is unknown. Instead, rewrite the statement for clarity: 
      • ✅ Do: If a student requests information, the student should be directed to the correct office.
    • Use terms that can apply to any gender, such as chair or chairperson and spokesperson unless the -man or -woman terms are specified by an organization:
      • ✅ Do: police officer 🚫 Don’t: policeman, policewoman or patrolman. 
      • ✅ Do: business owner or businessperson 🚫 Don’t:  businessman or businesswoman.
      • ✅ Do: humanity, humankind, humans, human beings, people 🚫 Don’t: mankind. 
      • ✅ Do: first-year student 🚫 Don’t:  freshman, freshperson or freshwoman. First-year student is preferred since it’s gender-neutral and more inclusive.
  • Pronouns in writing:
    • In stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her, AP uses they/them/their as much as possible to describe a person who uses those pronouns for themself. Another option is to reword a sentence:
      • Rewrite the sentence to avoid confusion:
        • ✅ Do: Applicants must submit all materials by the deadline. 
        • 🚫 Don’t: Applicants must submit their materials by the deadline.
      • Replace the pronoun with an article:
        • ✅ Do: Ask the student to prepare a presentation.
        • 🚫 Don't: Ask the student to prepare his presentation.
      • Revise the sentence to use the pronoun one:
        • ✅ Do: A prepared student is more likely to succeed than an unprepared one. 
        • 🚫 Don’t: A prepared student is more likely to succeed than if he has not done sufficient research.
      • Revise the sentence to use the pronoun who:
        • ✅ Do: A student who does sufficient research is more likely to succeed.
        • 🚫 Don’t: A student is more likely to succeed if he does sufficient research.

Race and ethnicity

  • See for guidelines related to: race; referencing race only if relevant to story; antisemitism (n.) antisemitic (adj.); AAPI, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Stop AAPI Hate; Black(s) (n.), white(s) (n.), Black (adj.); dual heritage; African American; people of color (in broad references), minority (in broad references); Black Lives Matter, #BlackLivesMatter;  enslaved people v. slaves; Juneteenth; biracial, multiracial; Chicano, Latino, Latina, Hispanic; American Indians, Native Americans, Indigenous; neo-Nazism, white supremacy.

Process for creating and using these guidelines

In collaboration with faculty experts, communicators, student groups and administrators across various schools, colleges and units, ASU’s Enterprise Brand Strategy and Management has created an inclusive language and image usage guide to provide all members of the ASU community with a foundation to build upon as terminology and cultural norms evolve. This document will be updated as the working group’s efforts continue.